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Description

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Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, The Painted Veil is the story of the beautiful but love-starved Kitty Fane. When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. Stripped of the British society of her youth and the small but effective society she fought so hard to attain in Hong Kong, she is compelled by her awakening conscience to reassess her life and learn how to love.

The Painted Veil is a beautifully written affirmation of the human capacity to grow, to change, and to forgive.

Review

“The modern writer who has influenced me the most.” – George Orwell

About the Author

W. Somerset Maugham was one of the twentieth century’s most popular novelists as well as a celebrated playwright, critic, and short story writer. He was born in Paris but grew up in England and served as a secret agent for the British during World War I. He wrote many novels, including the classics Of Human Bondage, The Razor’s Edge, Cakes and Ale, Christmas Holiday, The Moon and Sixpence, Theatre, and Up at the Villa.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1

She gave a startled cry.

"What''s the matter?" he asked.

Notwithstanding the darkness of the shuttered room he saw her face on a sudden distraught with terror.

"Some one just tried the door."

"Well, perhaps it was the amah, or one of the boys."

"They never come at this time. They know I always sleep after tiffin."

"Who else could it be?"

"Walter," she whispered, her lips trembling.

She pointed to his shoes. He tried to put them on, but his nervousness, for her alarm was affecting him, made him clumsy, and besides, they were on the tight side. With a faint gasp of impatience she gave him a shoe horn. She slipped into a kimono and in her bare feet went over to her dressing-table. Her hair was shingled and with a comb she had repaired its disorder before he had laced his second shoe. She handed him his coat.

"How shall I get out?"

"You''d better wait a bit. I''ll look out and see that it''s all right."

"It can''t possibly be Walter. He doesn''t leave the laboratory till five."

"Who is it then?"

They spoke in whispers now. She was quaking. It occurred to him that in an emergency she would lose her head and on a sudden he felt angry with her. If it wasn''t safe why the devil had she said it was? She caught her breath and put her hand on his arm. He followed the direction of her glance. They stood facing the windows that led out on the verandah. They were shuttered and the shutters were bolted. They saw the white china knob of the handle slowly turn. They had heard no one walk along the verandah. It was terrifying to see that silent motion. A minute passed and there was no sound. Then, with the ghastliness of the supernatural, in the same stealthy, noiseless, and horrifying manner, they saw the white china knob of the handle at the other window turn also. It was so frightening that Kitty, her nerves failing her, opened her mouth to scream; but, seeing what she was going to do, he swiftly put his hand over it and her cry was smothered in his fingers.

Silence. She leaned against him, her knees shaking, and he was afraid she would faint. Frowning, his jaw set, he carried her to the bed and sat her down upon it. She was as white as the sheet and notwithstanding his tan his cheeks were pale too. He stood by her side looking with fascinated gaze at the china knob. They did not speak. Then he saw that she was crying.

"For God''s sake don''t do that," he whispered irritably. "If we''re in for it we''re in for it. We shall just have to brazen it out."

She looked for her handkerchief and knowing what she wanted he gave her her bag.

"Where''s your topee?"

"I left it downstairs."

"Oh, my God!"

"I say, you must pull yourself together. It''s a hundred to one it wasn''t Walter. Why on earth should he come back at this hour? He never does come home in the middle of the day, does he?"

"Never."

"I''ll bet you anything you like it was amah."

She gave him the shadow of a smile. His rich, caressing voice reassured her and she took his hand and affectionately pressed it. He gave her a moment to collect herself.

"Look here, we can''t stay here for ever," he said then. "Do you feel up to going out on the verandah and having a look?"

"I don''t think I can stand."

"Have you got any brandy in here?"

She shook her head. A frown for an instant darkened his brow, he was growing impatient, he did not quite know what to do. Suddenly she clutched his hand more tightly.

"Suppose he''s waiting there?"

He forced his lips to smile and his voice retained the gentle, persuasive tone the effect of which he was so fully conscious of.

"That''s not very likely. Have a little pluck, Kitty. How can it possibly be your husband? If he''d come in and seen a strange topee in the hall and come upstairs and found your room locked, surely he would have made some sort of row. It must have been one of the servants. Only a Chinese would turn a handle in that way."

She did feel more herself now.

"It''s not very pleasant even if it was only the amah."

"She can be squared and if necessary I''ll put the fear of God into her. There are not many advantages in being a government official, but you may as well get what you can out of it."

He must be right. She stood up and turning to him stretched out her arms: he took her in his and kissed her on the lips. It was such rapture that it was pain. She adored him. He released her and she went to the window. She slid back the bolt and opening the shutter a little looked out. There was not a soul. She slipped on to the verandah, looked into her husband''s dressing-room and then into her own sitting-room. Both were empty. She went back to the bedroom and beckoned to him.

"Nobody."

"I believe the whole thing was an optical delusion."

"Don''t laugh. I was terrified. Go into my sitting-room and sit down. I''ll put on my stockings and some shoes."

2

He did as she bade and in five minutes she joined him. He was smoking a cigarette.

"I say, could I have a brandy and soda?"

"Yes, I''ll ring."

"I don''t think it would hurt you by the look of things."

They waited in silence for the boy to answer. She gave the order.

"Ring up the laboratory and ask if Walter is there," she said then. "They won''t know your voice."

He took up the receiver and asked for the number. He inquired whether Dr. Fane was in. He put down the receiver.

"He hasn''t been in since tiffin," he told her. "Ask the boy whether he has been here."

"I daren''t. It''ll look so funny if he has and I didn''t see him."

The boy brought the drinks and Townsend helped himself. When he offered her some she shook her head.

"What''s to be done if it was Walter?" she asked.

"Perhaps he wouldn''t care."

"Walter?"

Her tone was incredulous.

"It''s always struck me he was rather shy. Some men can''t bear scenes, you know. He''s got sense enough to know that there''s nothing to be gained by making a scandal. I don''t believe for a minute it was Walter, but even if it was, my impression is that he''ll do nothing. I think he''ll ignore it."

She reflected for a moment.

"He''s awfully in love with me."

"Well, that''s all to the good. You''ll get round him."

He gave her that charming smile of his which she had always found so irresistible. It was a slow smile which started in his clear blue eyes and traveled by perceptible degrees to his shapely mouth. He had small white even teeth. It was a very sensual smile and it made her heart melt in her body.

"I don''t very much care," she said, with a flash of gaiety. "It was worth it."

"It was my fault."

"Why did you come? I was amazed to see you."

"I couldn''t resist it."

"You dear."

She leaned a little towards him, her dark and shining eyes gazing passionately into his, her mouth a little open with desire, and he put his arms round her. She abandoned herself with a sigh of ecstasy to their shelter.

"You know you can always count on me," he said.

"I''m so happy with you. I wish I could make you as happy as you make me."

"You''re not frightened any more?"

"I hate Walter," she answered.

He did not quite know what to say to this, so he kissed her. Her face was very soft against his.

But he took her wrist on which was a little gold watch and looked at the time.

"Do you know what I must do now?"

"Bolt?" she smiled.

He nodded. For one instant she clung to him more closely, but she felt his desire to go, and she released him.

"It''s shameful the way you neglect your work. Be off with you."

He could never resist the temptation to flirt.

"You seem in a devil of a hurry to get rid of me," he said lightly.

"You know that I hate to let you go."

Her answer was low and deep and serious. He gave a flattered laugh.

"Don''t worry your pretty little head about our mysterious visitor. I''m quite sure it was the amah. And if there''s any trouble I guarantee to get you out of it."

"Have you had a lot of experience?"

His smile was amused and complacent.

"No, but I flatter myself that I''ve got a head screwed on my shoulders."

3

She went out on to the verandah and watched him leave the house. He waved his hand to her. It gave her a little thrill as she looked at him; he was forty-one, but he had the lithe figure and the springing step of a boy.

The verandah was in shadow; and lazily, her heart at ease with satisfied love, she lingered. Their house stood in the Happy Valley, on the side of the hill, for they could not afford to live on the more eligible but expensive Peak. But her abstracted gaze scarcely noticed the blue sea and the crowded shipping in the harbor. She could think only of her lover.

Of course it was stupid to behave as they had done that afternoon, but if he wanted her how could she be prudent? He had come two or three times after tiffin, when in the heat of the day no one thought of stirring out, and not even the boys had seen him come and go. It was very difficult at Hong Kong. She hated the Chinese city and it made her nervous to go into the filthy little house off the Victoria Road in which they were in the habit of meeting. It was a curio dealer''s; and the Chinese who were sitting about stared at her unpleasantly; she hated the ingratiating smile of the old man who took her to the back of the shop and then up a dark flight of stairs. The room into which he led her was frowsy and the large wooden bed against the wall made her shudder.

"This is dreadfully sordid, isn''t it?" she said to Charlie the first time she met him there.

"It was till you came in," he answered.

Of course the moment he took her in his arms she forgot everything.

Oh, how hateful it was that she wasn''t free, that they both weren''t free! She didn''t like his wife. Kitty''s wandering thoughts dwelt now for a moment on Dorothy Townsend. How unfortunate to be called Dorothy! It dated you. She was thirty-eight at least. But Charlie never spoke of her. Of course he didn''t care for her; she bored him to death. But he was a gentleman. Kitty smiled with affectionate irony: it was just like him, silly old thing; he might be unfaithful to her, but he would never allow a word in disparagement of her to cross his lips. She was a tallish woman, taller than Kitty, neither stout nor thin, with a good deal of pale brown hair; she could never have been pretty with anything but the prettiness of youth; her features were good enough without being remarkable and her blue eyes were cold. She had a skin that you would never look at twice and no color in her cheeks. And she dressed like-well, like what she was, the wife of the Assistant Colonial Secretary at Hong Kong. Kitty smiled and gave her shoulders a faint shrug.

Of course no one could deny that Dorothy Townsend had a pleasant voice. She was a wonderful mother, Charlie always said that of her, and she was what Kitty''s mother called a gentlewoman. But Kitty did not like her. She did not like her casual manner; and the politeness with which she treated you when you were there, to tea or dinner, was exasperating because you could not but feel how little interest she took in you. The fact was, Kitty supposed, that she cared for nothing but her children: there were two boys at school in England, and another boy of six whom she was going to take home next year. Her face was a mask. She smiled and in her pleasant, well-mannered way said the things that were expected of her; but for all her cordiality held you at a distance. She had a few intimate friends in the Colony and they greatly admired her. Kitty wondered whether Mrs. Townsend thought her a little common. She flushed. After all there was no reason for her to put on airs. It was true that her father had been a Colonial Governor and of course it was very grand while it lasted-every one stood up when you entered a room and men took off their hats to you as you passed in your car-but what could be more insignificant than a Colonial Governor when he had retired? Dorothy Townsend''s father lived on a pension in a small house at Earl''s Court. Kitty''s mother would think it a dreadful bore if she asked her to call. Kitty''s father, Bernard Garstin, was a K.C. and there was no reason why he should not be made a judge one of these days. Anyhow they lived in South Kensington.

4

Kitty, coming to Hong Kong on her marriage, had found it hard to reconcile herself to the fact that her social position was determined by her husband''s occupation. Of course every one had been very kind and for two or three months they had gone out to parties almost every night; when they dined at Government House the Governor took her in as a bride; but she had understood quickly that as the wife of the Government bacteriologist she was of no particular consequence. It made her angry.

"It''s too absurd," she told her husband. "Why, there''s hardly any one here that one would bother about for five minutes at home. Mother wouldn''t dream of asking any of them to dine at our house."

"You mustn''t let it worry you," he answered. "It doesn''t really matter, you know."

"Of course it doesn''t matter, it only shows how stupid they are, but it is rather funny when you think of all the people who used to come to our house at home that here we should be treated like dirt."

"From a social standpoint the man of science does not exist," he smiled.

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Lee
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Another must-read classic!
Reviewed in the United States on August 18, 2017
I’m quite stingy when it comes to rating books and normally would not give more than 4 stars, even for a book I thoroughly enjoyed. However, in the case of W. Somerset Maugham’s classic The Painted Veil, the first thought that came into my head after finishing the book is... See more
I’m quite stingy when it comes to rating books and normally would not give more than 4 stars, even for a book I thoroughly enjoyed. However, in the case of W. Somerset Maugham’s classic The Painted Veil, the first thought that came into my head after finishing the book is that this is a masterpiece that absolutely deserves nothing less than 5 stars!

The entire book is beautifully and tightly written, using what I would categorize as “classical” language, but in a style that is simple and easy to understand. Maugham did a fantastic job telling the story of how the main character Kitty Fane’s adulterous affair and the aftermath of it causes her to re-assess and make changes in her life that she never thought possible. In all honesty, from the beginning of the story to the very end, I did not like Kitty one bit. I felt she was silly and foolish (and vain, immature, self-centered, etc.) and even when she “changes for the better” later on, I still couldn’t bring myself to like her. No doubt that Kitty grew a lot after her experiences in China, but I actually still saw a bit of the same characteristics in her, albeit to a much lesser degree. As I was reading, my feelings towards Kitty went from despising her in the beginning to pitying her later on in the story (the pity comes from acknowledgement of the fact that, in a sense, part of her plight truly WAS due to societal conventions and how she was raised).

Since I read this book for one of my book clubs, I don’t intend to write a long review on it, as I prefer to save more in-depth analysis for when we discuss the book. However, for anyone who may be considering whether to read this book or not, my response is a wholehearted YES! The amount of ground that Maugham was able to cover – love, betrayal, redemption, society norms and conventions, culture, marriage and relationships, religion, gender roles and stereotypes, class structure, etc. – in such a short book (my Kindle version was less than 200 pages) is not only astounding but also extremely rare. Don’t let the “classic” label fool you into thinking this will be a difficult book to get through because it definitely won’t be – this book is an easy read, yet still invokes much insight into numerous topics that are still relevant today.

Lastly, I know there was a movie adaptation of this book that came out around 10 years ago, but I actually don’t plan on watching it, at least not any time soon. I’m very particular when it comes to book to movie/tv series adaptations, especially ones that turn out to be very different from the book due to changes made by the producers/directors. I don’t want my memory of the book to be ruined if I end up disliking the movie’s interpretation of the story/characters.

(Read in January 2017)
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Dataman
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Beautifully Written
Reviewed in the United States on April 13, 2016
“The Painted Veil” is the story of Kitty Fane, a beautiful, but thoughtless, shallow, and self-centered woman. The year is 1925. When her younger sister announces her own engagement to a prosperous Duke, Kitty “panics” and accepts the proposal of the very quiet, very shy,... See more
“The Painted Veil” is the story of Kitty Fane, a beautiful, but thoughtless, shallow, and self-centered woman. The year is 1925. When her younger sister announces her own engagement to a prosperous Duke, Kitty “panics” and accepts the proposal of the very quiet, very shy, Dr. Walter Fane, a bacteriologist living in China who falls madly in love with her. The couple has little in common. She does not love her husband, and barely knows him. While he is a man of great integrity, his passion for her is superficial. They are destined to make one another deeply unhappy. Yearning for romance, Kitty falls madly in love with Charles Townshend, a charming, married, government officer. When Walter learns of Kitty’s affair, he gives her an ultimatum. She can convince Charlie to divorce his wife or she can go with Walter into the middle of a cholera epidemic. She is stunned to find that Charlie isn''t willing to sacrifice anything for her. In the middle of this epidemic, she is forced to accept her faults. Kitty starts to realize that Walter is a good man.

Maugham is a first rate author. The book is beautifully written—simple, yet elegant.
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DebK
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Rich & Thought-Provoking
Reviewed in the United States on February 14, 2021
The prose is terse and fluid and the story is captivating. I saw the movie recently and wanted to understand the story better, so I picked up this novel. What a shock! The movie version changed the story much too significantly. I didn’t realize it was possible to make a... See more
The prose is terse and fluid and the story is captivating. I saw the movie recently and wanted to understand the story better, so I picked up this novel. What a shock! The movie version changed the story much too significantly. I didn’t realize it was possible to make a movie that becomes an entirely different story. In point of fact, the movie starts out the same as the novel but ends up in an entirely different place. Having said that, I did find the denouement of the movie much more satisfying. I think Somerset Maugham intended to convey something very different in his ending, but I can wholeheartedly recommend both the movie and the book.
2 people found this helpful
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Kindle Customer
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I liked it but not sure why
Reviewed in the United States on May 10, 2017
I decided to read this book because it sounded like an interesting self-discovery book. I can''t say that I was disappointed, but it wasn''t quite what I expected. I would label this book a classic, primarily because of its language and content. I actually found it was quite... See more
I decided to read this book because it sounded like an interesting self-discovery book. I can''t say that I was disappointed, but it wasn''t quite what I expected. I would label this book a classic, primarily because of its language and content. I actually found it was quite interesting although I''m not quite sure why.

The story follows Kitty Fane. She is a young (mid-20s) woman living with her husband Walter in the English colony in Hong Kong, China in the 1920s. Kitty had only married her husband in order to be married before her younger sister, and there is no love in her heart for her husband. She has an affair that her husband found out about. He gave her two choices he divorces her (leaving her ruined socially) or she goes with him to a remote Chinese village to help fight a cholera epidemic. After fighting with her lover, she consents to go to the village.

When she gets to the village, she is in a severe depression and the rest of the story is how she comes to view herself and those around her. There is the local English Customs official for the town that she finds herself in company with a lot, her husband Walter, and the local nuns that she spends the bulk of her time with and help to shape her ideas. The nuns in particular have a profound impact on her as she slowly changes her views of the world.

I think this book was a wonderful cultural read. You learned quite a bit about the English in China in the early 1900s. There''s prejudice and racism. Kitty in particular is quite racist, but for the time the language and opinions wouldn''t have been at all unusual. The first third of the book is Kitty having and being caught about her affair. After that, you move into rural china where a lot of the interesting aspects of the book are. You learned about nuns and why they become missionaries and how they are happy in their work. They reference traveling by chair all the time. I was correct in what I thought that meant, but was still surprised by this mode of travel. It is carried by collies (indentured servants) from the front and back.

Overall I thought it was an interesting read. I can''t say way in particular I thought it was good, but it was just the general impression of writing style, language, culture, and emotional growth. I can''t say Kitty grew by leaps and bounds, but she did grow some. I liked that the romance scenes happened ''off stage'' by being alluded to and then a scene change. I enjoyed the language and writing style as well. The chapters are extremely short, some only a page or two long. It made it easy to stop as needed.

I''d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys classical fiction. Also, anyone interested in early 1900s China or the English colonization of China in that time frame might enjoy this, as long as they keep in mind it is still fiction and the story focuses on the emotions and life of a young woman. I''m giving it three cheese slices only because I think this is a one and done read. I can''t think that I''ll go back and read it, but it was an enjoyable read the first time through.
8 people found this helpful
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Joel D. Hirst
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A beautiful tapestry from the most commonplace of materials
Reviewed in the United States on June 24, 2015
A great writer, a truly great writer, takes the ordinary and transforms it into a compelling tale. He is able to weave a beautiful tapestry from the most commonplace of materials; things that we all find laying cluttered around our lives. Betrayal, depression, frustration,... See more
A great writer, a truly great writer, takes the ordinary and transforms it into a compelling tale. He is able to weave a beautiful tapestry from the most commonplace of materials; things that we all find laying cluttered around our lives. Betrayal, depression, frustration, lust. Not epic betrayal that destroys nations, but personal acts of inconsistency that end in suffering. Not great depression, like Sylvia Plath, which was channeled by an enormous spirit into an indomitable art, but a petty personal depression made of up self-pity and envy. Not frustration against the great plans of men gone awry, but simple frustration brought from boredom. And lust – not a great lust like Helen of Troy or Tristan and Isolde, but an average lust stemming from all these things.

In W. Somerset Maugham’s simple story “The Painted Vail” he does just this. Set against the backdrop of colonial Hong Kong, the tale is of a colonial housewife of a lower level civil servant, who settled for a man she really didn’t love out of fear of missing her moment and ended up embarking upon a lackluster tryst which ends in folly.

There are no great morals to take from this story, no epic moments of significance, no grand gestures or powerful monologues that seek to assure the reader that there is an underlying idea that the author is trying to convey. It’s just a story, simple and honest – and for that it is great.
Of course Maugham wrote in a different time. I suspect that his Victorian era “classical” style would not be well received in a time when the public hankers for long car chases and grand gun battles against the backdrop of world-altering geo-political struggles – and plenty of flesh in between. He was able to simply tell the stories of normal people and their unremarkable interactions. I envy him for this – I would like to write the literary fiction that Maugham was able to get away with, and not have to worry about all the tools and tricks and hooks upon which we are taught modern literature depends. But alas we are products of our time – as was Maugham.

To be sure, Maugham is one of England’s greatest writers; one who has distinguished himself up against so many who will remain forever anonymous. Then, as now, he was treasured for the simplicity of his stories that overflowed with humanity. He is missed; and for the critical reader, he never disappoints.
4 people found this helpful
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Deep Reader
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
In Maugham country
Reviewed in the United States on June 25, 2021
Reputedly created in six weeks, here is a surprisingly moving tale by a master story teller pushing himself through the labor of writing it. The occasional cliche, the bit of melodrama, the dangling preposition -- those are the only price you pay. The Painted Veil, like... See more
Reputedly created in six weeks, here is a surprisingly moving tale by a master story teller pushing himself through the labor of writing it. The occasional cliche, the bit of melodrama, the dangling preposition -- those are the only price you pay. The Painted Veil, like much good engish fiction, is grounded in the rules of behavior english people imposed on themselves a few generations back. But enough of an echo of the rules remains with us to make the story a powerful one. Ambition, empire, lust -- what a story it is. One is moved by
It in spite of one''s self.
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Cedric
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Ugh ...
Reviewed in the United States on January 14, 2019
If I had read the book first, I might have liked the movie less. In this regard the movie rose in my estimation for the depth it added to flat characters in the book: Yu and the Mother Superior. However, as with most books character development was greater in the book in... See more
If I had read the book first, I might have liked the movie less. In this regard the movie rose in my estimation for the depth it added to flat characters in the book: Yu and the Mother Superior. However, as with most books character development was greater in the book in general. As another reader said, I did not like Kitty either. The movie redeemed bother she and Walter. Further, the book makes no apology for the way in which it describes the people of China, which smacks of racism of the time
3 people found this helpful
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Bonnie
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Examine your book carefully
Reviewed in the United States on December 20, 2020
I really was excited about receiving this book because I bought one used and there were highlighted pages throughout and markings almost on every page making it difficult to read. This book is clean on each page and I’m happy except for the torn binding at the bottom of the... See more
I really was excited about receiving this book because I bought one used and there were highlighted pages throughout and markings almost on every page making it difficult to read. This book is clean on each page and I’m happy except for the torn binding at the bottom of the book even though I purchased this as a new book.
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S RiazTop Contributor: Children''s Books
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The Painted Veil
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 16, 2021
W. Somerset Maugham is a little out of favour these days, which is a shame, as he has always been one of my favourite authors and, whenever I read anything by him, I am impressed anew. Published in 1925, our main character is the beautiful, but vacuous, Kitty. Her mother...See more
W. Somerset Maugham is a little out of favour these days, which is a shame, as he has always been one of my favourite authors and, whenever I read anything by him, I am impressed anew. Published in 1925, our main character is the beautiful, but vacuous, Kitty. Her mother had been ambitious for her beautiful, eldest daughter; but Kitty fails to make the marriage she is expected to - too busy enjoying herself dancing and flirting. However, when her younger, and plainer, sister, finds a husband before her, she accepts the proposal of bacterologist, Walter Fane, who is returning to Hong Kong. Kitty wants to leave England before her sister is married and, although she doesn''t love Walter, is aware that he adores her. The proposal is really central to the book. "Then, it''s yes?" Walter asks pleadingly. "I suppose so..." she returns. However, Hong Kong turns out to just be another disappointment. Walter is respected, but uncomfortable with the social events that are Kitty''s lifeblood, and she finds her status is not as great as she, and certainly her mother, would have wished. Before long she takes a lover, Charlie Townsend, the Assistant Colonial Secretary. Handsome, charming, and assuring her that his marriage is one of convenience, Kitty - as so many women over the years have - falls for him, hook, line and sinker. When Walter discovers what has happened he gives her a choice. Either she accompanies him to a cholera ridden village or, if Charlie will divorce his wife and marry her.... Although Kitty starts out as a silly and deluded young woman; this is the story of how she grows up and is full of wonderful characters - from Waddington to the Mother Superior at the convent. Maugham writes excellent female characters and this is a story about finding yourself, which will have you cheering for Kitty, despite her faults.
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Rita Wilkes
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Beautifully written
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 21, 2021
A deceptively easy read which beautifully explores universal themes which are still current today. Ambitious parents who need their children to compensate for their own disappointments; marriage as a way out and the choices available in a loveless marriage; vanity and...See more
A deceptively easy read which beautifully explores universal themes which are still current today. Ambitious parents who need their children to compensate for their own disappointments; marriage as a way out and the choices available in a loveless marriage; vanity and disappointment; owning mistakes and self discovery. Discovering beauty in work and personal sacrifice plus many more themes. Expat life probably has not changed much since the book was written. The characters are well drawn and the heroine grows on one despite her many faults.
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rwoo1764
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Tragic but beautiful
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 7, 2021
I could not put this book down. I didn''t expect it to end the way it did. It''s incredibly moving. I had mixed emotions about the way in which Kitty and Walter behaved towards each other and so hoped they would work things out. It''s a tragic love story which had me in tears...See more
I could not put this book down. I didn''t expect it to end the way it did. It''s incredibly moving. I had mixed emotions about the way in which Kitty and Walter behaved towards each other and so hoped they would work things out. It''s a tragic love story which had me in tears towards the end.
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M Arif
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great read that will leave you thinking for a while...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 16, 2011
I had never read any Maugham until this was selected for our book club. I wasn''t too excited by the book description (especially when I read the words ''spiritual awakening'') but was surprised to find myself totally immersed in Kitty''s world from the outset. This story is...See more
I had never read any Maugham until this was selected for our book club. I wasn''t too excited by the book description (especially when I read the words ''spiritual awakening'') but was surprised to find myself totally immersed in Kitty''s world from the outset. This story is littered with traps that could easily turn it into more of a crowd pleaser (religious redemption, empowerment as a woman, love story - these could have all wrapped it up in a nice little package) but Maugham manages to steer clear and produce a provocative novel that left me pondering for many days. Although not likeable, Kitty is a character anyone could identify with - she makes a mistake many of us have but for her its consequences are shattering and bring her crashing down to earth. So begins a chain of events that although tragic, lead Kitty to unexpected places. Her journey is explored with subtlety but not sentimentality and using language that is economical yet expressive. I would also recommend reading the two poems that are referred to in the book as they provide good context: An elegy on the death of a mad dog by Oliver Goldsmith Lift not the painted veil by Percy Bysshe Shelley I enjoyed this immensely and will definitely be reading more Maugham.
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Sarah, Chester UK
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A truly great read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 7, 2020
This book was chosen as a good read on the Radio 4 programme of the same name. I had read and enjoyed ''Of human bondage'' and Somerset Maugham short stories many years ago. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. An utterly captivating story. On the whole the women...See more
This book was chosen as a good read on the Radio 4 programme of the same name. I had read and enjoyed ''Of human bondage'' and Somerset Maugham short stories many years ago. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. An utterly captivating story. On the whole the women portrayed are strong and sympathetic and the men rather unlikeable. It is therefore interesting that it is written by a man. I really could hardly put the book down. I will recommend it to all my friends. I didn''t notice the mistakes mentioned in other reviews.
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